NCAA Men's Tournament 2021: Ranking the Top 7 Players in the Final Four

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistApril 2, 2021

NCAA Men's Tournament 2021: Ranking the Top 7 Players in the Final Four

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Four teams are left standing in the hunt for the 2021 NCAA men's tournament title.

    Gonzaga and Baylor have stood atop the college basketball world all season, and despite a wild tournament filled with upsets and Cinderella stories, they are still on a collision course for the national championship game.

    Can upstart No. 11 seed UCLA or defensive-minded No. 2 seed Houston pull off the upset?

    Before the Final Four tips off Saturday, we've taken a quick run through those four rosters and highlighted the seven best players left standing in the 2021 tournament.

    Players are ranked based on overall stats, tournament productivity and their importance to their team's success.

    Let's get to it.

7. Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Jalen Suggs is the best NBA prospect on the Gonzaga roster.

    He could have put up Cade Cunningham-type numbers this year, but that's not the role he has been asked to play on a stacked Bulldogs roster, and that's the reason he doesn't rank any higher on this list.

    Instead of hunting for shots, he plays the part of facilitator while Corey Kispert and Drew Timme shoulder the scoring load. That said, he is more than capable of filling up the stat sheet in his own right, and he showed out with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting against USC in the Elite Eight.

    The 6'4" freshman is averaging 14.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals, and he'll continue to be a superstar-caliber player filling a complementary role on the best team in the country.

6. Davion Mitchell, Baylor

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Baylor Bears defense forces 17.3 turnovers per game, and Davion Mitchell is the driving force behind their effectiveness on that end of the floor.

    The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year ranks 15th in the nation with 55 steals, and he plays bigger than his 6'2" frame when closing passing lanes and pestering opponents. He has also made his mark on the offensive end, averaging 14.1 points while shooting a blistering 45 percent from beyond the arc on 131 attempts.

    He'll likely be tasked with slowing down Houston guard Quentin Grimes in the Final Four, and shutting him down could be the key to Baylor reaching the championship game.

5. Quentin Grimes, Houston

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    After a disappointing freshman season at Kansas, Quentin Grimes entered the NBA draft and found his scholarship spot had been filled when he withdrew and tried to return to the Jayhawks roster for his sophomore campaign.

    The former 5-star recruit landed on his feet at Houston, where he averaged 12.1 points and 2.6 assists last year, and he has emerged as the star of the Cougars as a junior.

    The 6'5" guard has turned into a knockdown shooter from the perimeter, hitting 99 threes at a 41.3 percent clip after connecting on just 96 three-pointers at a 33.3 percent rate during his first two collegiate seasons.

    He's averaging 18.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.4 steals on the year, and he's hit at least four threes in each of Houston's four NCAA tournament games while scoring right in line with his season average at 18 points per game.

4. Jared Butler, Baylor

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    After surprising more than a few people with his decision to return to Baylor for his junior year, Jared Butler earned consensus first-team All-American honors this season.

    The 6'3" guard averages 16.5 points and 4.8 assists, and he's a big part of the best three-point shooting team in the country, knocking down 69 treys at a 40.4 percent rate on the year.

    Aside from his offensive prowess, he also earned first-team All-Defensive honors in the Big 12, and he's quietly filling up the stat sheet during the NCAA tournament with averages of 13.0 points, 4.8 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals.

    While he's probably not going to pour in 30 points and single-handedly lead his team to victory, Butler is as important to his team's success as any player on this list.

3. Corey Kispert, Gonzaga

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    A strong case can be made that Corey Kispert is the best pure shooter in the country.

    The 6'7" senior is averaging 18.9 points and shooting 45.3 percent from beyond the arc while knocking down 87 three-pointers on the year.

    That was enough to earn consensus first-team All-American honors as he had steadily grown from a role player off the bench to a complementary starter to one of the offensive focal points on the highest-scoring team in the nation.

    He's connected on 15 of 30 looks from distance in the tournament while averaging 17.3 points in four games, so it's been business as usual.

2. Johnny Juzang, UCLA

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Every NCAA tournament has a breakout star, and it's UCLA guard Johnny Juzang this year.

    A 4-star recruit and the No. 33 player in the 2019 class, he began his collegiate career at the University of Kentucky, where he averaged 2.9 points and 12.3 minutes as a freshman.

    He transferred to UCLA during the offseason and was granted immediate eligibility, and it's hard to imagine the Bruins making it this far in March Madness without him carrying the offense.

    The stats tell the story:

    • Pre-NCAA tournament: 21 G, 14.0 PPG, 41.2 FG%, 34.5 3PT%
    • NCAA tournament: 5 G, 21.6 PPG, 47.7 FG%, 35.3 3PT%

    He scored 28 of UCLA's 51 points in the upset win over Michigan in the Elite Eight, and he'll need to have another big night if the Bruins are going to upend heavily favored Gonzaga.

1. Drew Timme, Gonzaga

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    After a quiet opening game against Norfolk State in which he played just 22 minutes, Drew Timme has been the most efficient player of the 2021 NCAA tournament.

    In wins over Oklahoma, Creighton and USC, he shot a combined 29-of-45 (.644) from the floor while averaging 25.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists. He took it right at USC star freshman Evan Mobley in the Elite Eight and finished with 23 points, no doubt giving his NBA draft stock a nice shot in the arm.

    His footwork around the basket and finishing ability allow the Bulldogs to lean on him offensively, and he's also a terrific passer who keeps defenses honest with his ability to find the open shooter.

    He may not have the most NBA upside or the most dynamic skill set, but Timme is the best college basketball player suiting up in the Final Four.


    All stats courtesy of Sports Reference.